Hans & Mary; the perfect pair? Schwalbe tyres review
I think, fingers crossed, that I have started to get better on my bike. In the last year I have started tackling more difficult terrain and I have survived my first biking winter. Once I started to hit muddier, rootier and rockier trails I started to find that some of my kit and equipment choicers weren’t keeping up with the “phenomenal” pace of my “progress”. I started wondering if there were any choices I could make to help with pushing my riding further, something a number of us will have considered as we develop our riding.
For anyone trying to upgrade how your bike handles, I would say that the first place to consider is down at “tyre” level. Changing your tyres is one of the least expensive, but most impactful changes you can make on your bike.
I took the responsibility to make a good tyre choice seriously, if nothing else tyres these days are fairly expensive and I didn’t have the luxury of trying before buying. There were so many different factors when choosing tyres I could probably have researched it for days. However there are 5 key factors that are worth thinking about which led me to choosing the Schwalbe Magic Mary and Hans Dampf combo.
The name itself sounds pretty complex but this basically means how tough or tacky your tyre is, and there are advantages to both. The tougher your tyre, the less grip it may have in certain conditions. The softer the rubber the less durable the tyre will usually be. A tacky compound will usually offer excellent grip in most conditions.
This refers to the pattern of the blocks on your tyre and is usually the main point of discussion when purchasing or marketing tyres. That said there is some evidence that tread pattern has less impact on a tyre’s performance than the rubber compound and construction of the tyre carcass. Well spaced, tall knobs should grip better in loose terrain and clear out the mud well, something that remains relevant for UK riders all year round sadly. The trade off is the rolling resistance, with these larger, mud clearing tyres being fairly slow in anything other than the wet brown stuff.
If your tyre has big shoulder blocks, it tends to grip better into corners and over off camber terrain, as I recently found when testing the Magic Mary and Hans Dampf in Hamsterley.
Whilst bigger, mud clearing tyres remain popular in the UK, a number of enduro or trail bikes are also being specced with a lower profile rear tyre like the Mavic Crossmax Quest Xl which provide much less rolling resistance due to their lower profile and tighter tread pattern. I think it’s safe to say that these lower profile tyres are going to be faster in dry, fast terrain but aren’t really suitable for all year round in UK conditions (e.g. mud).
Casing and Weight
There is a relationship between the durability of the casing and the weight of the tyre, with trade offs having to be made. The more durable the casing, the heavier the tyres will be, leaving the tyre feeling more planted but perhaps slower. There are different levels of ply for casings, with some companies offering much denser three-ply carcassses for their gravity ranges. If you’re not racing regularly then it may be better to go for a tyre with a tougher carcass, unless you enjoy regularly replacing your tyres (if so, you’re probably insane already and all of this beyond your comprehension).
The amazing thing about different casings is that they allow you to run different air pressures which will give tyres a totally different feel. Lower tyre pressures generally provide more grip, but they will run slower and are potentially liable to being ripped off the rim or burping, something I know all too well (the burping that is…). Whether you’re running tubeless tyres or not will also have an impact on the air pressures available and the affect the handling. Most premium tyres these are going to be either tubeless ready or tubeless specific. I have yet to make the switch to tubeless but it is on my list of things to do soon.
Schwalbe Magic Mary Snakeskin, 27.5 x 2.35, Trailstar compound (£36.99)
When I put on my new tyres I fell in love straight away with the Magic Mary, not just for the great name. It is the perfect tyre for aggressive riding with forward facing, well spaced blocks on its massive carcass. It looks very big, despite reportedly being only 2.35 inches wide, significantly bigger than the similarly sized Maxxis Minions it replaced. The high-end Magic Mary comes with the snakeskin casing which provides added protection whilst remaining quite light. So far there has been a little increase in drag over the Minions but not too much.
The Magic Mary is one of the most popular front-tyre choices for gravity riders, though less common on the back as it tends to struggle to put the power down on rocks at the back (or maybe I just struggle on the rocks sometimes). This is a great choice for a ‘fit and forget’, all year round tyre. It will handle the wet weather and provide confidence when things get sloppy. I certainly felt faster on steep, wet tracks I struggled to ride before. The off-camber rooty tracks are less of a problem with this tyre up front.
Hans Dampf Snakeskin, 27.5 x 2.35, Trailstar compound (£31.99)
Hans Dampf (otherwise known in German as the “Jack of all trades”) is a great all year round tyre. Same huge, stiff casing like the Magic Mary. Unlike the Magic Mary it has a rounded profile and slightly smaller blocks that are still well spaced but not in a directional pattern.
So far I have found that the tyre struggles a little on climbs and tarmac where it can be pretty draggy, Mr Betty found it a bit of a shock moving over to a Hans Dampf after running a Maxxis Ardent last summer, but then climbing is not what Hans Dampf was intended for. This jack of all trades tyre handles well under braking and corners like a much more aggressively profiled tyre.
So far I have been a little less wowed by the Hans Dampf but that said I have certainly been glad to have this tyre at the back on many occasions. It holds going into corners well and it gives me confidence knowing the back tyre is unlikely to slip out. It might be worth considering going for the slightly grippier TrailStar compound, even if it involves a slight reduction in durability over time.
I am looking forward to bashing them down the ‘Ard rock enduro stages this year on this combo from Schwalbe, without the fear of slashing it on the first rock possible. In general this combination isn’t going to climb well and the first few climbs after fitting them were slightly more painful than those before, however this wasn’t too noticeable given my pizza-powered climbing speeds.
March 28, 2017